The importance of volunteering

Metacognition is a column that will appear in every other issue.

Sarah Wilson

Metacognition is a column that will appear in every other issue.

Sarah Wilson, Managing Editor of Visual Elements

I’ve wanted a job for as long as I can remember. Since the age of 12, I’ve scoured countless job listing websites searching for those hiring. Jobs for dishwashers, cashiers and retail associates promising “flexible scheduling,” “competitive pay” and a myriad of other phrases that made me click to see their descriptions. Each time I believed I had found the “perfect” job my eyes would soon land on the words “requirement: age 16+.” Eventually discouraged, I resigned myself to applying for a volunteer program last fall. Getting a job would have to wait. 

As high school students we’re often asked to meet service hour requirements with the incentive of a grade, a certain diploma or to simply build our college resumes. But I’ll be the first to admit that my personal buy-in with volunteering was far from 100%. Sure, it was a kind thing to do, but was volunteering truly impactful, or was it just a time-filler, a resume boost?

Yet, after my experiences this past summer, I realized my previous understanding of volunteering was uninspired. When I thought of volunteering I imagined organizing files or passing out flyers to nameless faces. It lacked the genuine meaning and experience I was seeking. 

I realized that, instead, volunteering offers a great outlet to build meaningful connections. As a “ZooTeen” volunteer at the Cincinnati Zoo I had the opportunity to meet other teens from throughout the tri-state area who all shared a similar passion for animals and nature. More broadly, I got to interact with guests visiting from throughout the country, and getting to engage with them about a shared interest was more than gratifying. 

Volunteering is also an ideal contender against summer boredom. After the initial ecstasy of summer freedom wears off, I often find myself apathetic and unmotivated with nothing to fill my spare time. Volunteering made me much more appreciative of my time, and I felt like my summer was far more fulfilling. 

On a simpler level, the flexibility offered by volunteering is an additional benefit. From my own experiences, I learned that I could easily build my volunteering schedule to accommodate my personal life. I could work 40 hours one week and four the next, and I could take a break without worrying about scheduling vacation days or losing pay from a job.  

My experience this summer allowed me to realize that volunteering could be more than what I ever believed “working” could be. 

To all of us who will soon be or are already looking for jobs, I encourage you to consider volunteering. If the time commitment of a job doesn’t fit into your schedule or the responsibilities of working feel too demanding–volunteering can be the perfect balance in between.